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Reporter’s Diary: The Sri Lankan connection

25-June-2010
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Reporter’s Diary: The Sri Lankan connection

Last time, I wasn’t sure why birds of the same feather flocked together, that is, why Indians here in Cannes were sticking together? May be, I’ve found the answer. In an alien land, particularly when you don’t know the language the local people speak, you are more or less playing dumb-charade with them. And when you see some Indian faces, you are drawn towards them.

The belief or generalisation got pucca on Thursday, when I and my colleague on our way home after having dinner stopped at a small shop to pick up ice-creams. The man in his late-thirties asked us, which country we were from? “India,” we said. His next question was, “Mumbai?”

“No. New Delhi.”
“You speak Tamil?”
“No.”
“Only Hindi?
“Yes.”
“How much for the ice-cream?”
“Five Euros.”

As I fiddled through my wallet, and was counting the change, he changed his mind, and said, “You give me only four Euros.” For him, it was just a loss of one Euro, for me it was a gain of about Rs 55-60, depending on the rate of the rupee versus the Euro. In a land, which is careful to charge and return every cent and you are expected to leave a tip of 10 per cent of the bill in a restaurant, forfeiting a Euro was unthinkable.

“You (are) from Tamil Nadu?,” I asked.
“No. From Sri Lanka.”
“Oh! You are a Lankan! Lovely country,” I said, as we picked up the ice-cream and walked off. A little while later, my colleague seriously or jokingly, I am not sure, said,

“Hindi-Sri Lankan bhai-bhai.” And trust me, I was thinking the same thing, I told her. This affinity of neighbours and relation to culture, bonds us in alien lands. Probably that’s the reason why I hear stories of Indian-Pakistani camaraderie in the US. And that’s probably the reason our Sri Lankan ‘brother’ let go a Euro.

While on culture, by now I am sick of eating bread, croissants, pasta and cheese. The crust of the bread is literally hard. For a hardcore vegetarian like me, there’s little choice on the menu. And, yes, egg here is vegetarian. And if there’s a choice of vegetarian, it has to have ‘aubergine’ in it. What’s it? ‘Eggplant’. And what’s that? Brinjal, dear friends, brinjal. You realise it, when the dish is on your table. I HATE brinjals.

The Times of India-Indian party on Wednesday night came as a saviour to my parched taste buds. Believe me, there were more than a dozen people who said the same thing – that they’d been looking forward to the Indian party, particularly for Indian food. The entire Indian advertising/ media (agencies) fraternity was there. We stayed there till about 1.30 am (local time), and that was early, since we had to report on duty at 9 am in the morning.

And that reminds me of work. The week started on a very slow note with little attendance at the seminar halls. However, by Tuesday, the auditoriums were full. I’m over-awed by the kind of work that’s been presented. The theme throughout has been digital. Everybody is talking about increasing focus on digital and increasing ad spends on it, yet there was this session in the beginning itself on direct marketing that had many case studies collected from all over the world about direct mailing and why it’s effective even in this digital age. The session with comedian, actor, director, producer Ben Stiller was a dampener. He was being interviewed by Yahoo’s CMO, Elisa Steele. The main auditorium was full, so another auditorium had to be opened where there was a Live telecast done of the proceedings. Steele was dumb. But thanks to Stiller’s intelligence, he managed to speak for himself and the digital world on his own.

The same audience turnout was seen for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s session. However, the host this time, Abbey Klaassen, didn’t disappoint. She started with, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She was prepared and asked the right questions.

Besides Zuckerberg, there have been no other crowd-pullers so far. Even though this is my first visit, I personally feel that the marketers are missing from the scene, barring the strong 20-member contingent from ITC. Advertising is not just about creative output. It’s a big part of marketing and marketers need to learn. Besides networking, Cannes is a good ground for learning and experience and sharing and gaining knowledge.

Two more days to go for Cannes, and I’ll be able to relate better to Cannes and the learnings that I’ve had. So, let’s wait. Watch this space. And yes, I haven’t been run over yet. And am getting used to the traffic on the right. More later...

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